Green Squiggly Lines:

Electronic Portfolios: Macro-level Reading, Responding, and Evaluating

In "Reflections in Reading and Evaluating Electronic Portfolios," Kristine L. Blair and Pamela Takayoshi (1997) explore the ways in which "portfolios created and read electronically may … blur boundaries between writer and reader by allowing readers to play more active roles in the construction of the text" (358). Fundamentally, they ask: "If hypertext blurs the roles of reader and writer, how should our grading criteria account for our increased involvement in the creation of hypertext?" (p. 359). They argue that

part of this changing evaluation process must include an awareness of the ways teachers must negotiate shifting roles as readers in the hypertextual environment. …. The teacher/evaluator no longer evaluates only the individual writer and static text, she also must acknowledge the role her own reading processes and conceptions of the text play in that evaluation. (p. 365)

For Blair and Takayoshi, electronic portfolios suggest a radically new interactivity between teacher-commentator and student-writer. Following hypertext theorists such as George Landow (1997, 1994, 1992) and Jay David Bolter (1991), Blair and Takayoshi claim that hypertext "blurs" the lines between readers and writers. Applying this insight into the evaluation process, they see the need for the creation of new conceptual and practical models for evaluating student work. By turning toward portfolio evaluation and examining its electronic implications, Blair and Takayoshi continue a push away from sentence-level issues toward conceiving of and evaluating student writing on the macro-, developmental-level. They conclude that "for teachers to develop evaluation strategies and approaches based in electronic writing, they must first shift their conceptions of text, writing, reading, readers, and writers" (p. 368). These broad shifts run away from the realities of day-to-day writing and evaluation that students in institutionalized higher education experience. While politicians and administrators are often quick to embrace advances in communication technologies, they are also admit about maintaining standards, particularly in terms of students' abilities as writers. Placement in college composition or basic writing courses still depends on students' effective and standardized performance on exams or in portfolios that reflect valid and reliable methods of testing.